Tech Partners Track Turtle Species at Risk

The Takeaway: An app gathers portable, shareable data on the diamondback terrapin and an invasive snail species.

Land development and other human activities jeopardize the Mississippi diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), the only turtle species in the U.S. that makes its home in high-salinity marshes and creeks. A new app and partnership uncover important findings about Mississippi diamondback terrapins and stretch monitoring funds provided by the state coastal management program. Inspired by success, the partners—all from Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources—have begun using the app to check the spread of a wetland-destroying snail.

The department’s IT experts developed a mobile collection application using ESRI‘s Survey123 so Coastal Preserve Program specialists can track terrapins more easily in the field. Staffers leave heavy equipment back at the office because the app logs notes and photos about nests, terrapins, and tracks. The tool’s GPS points and data are mapped easily, uploaded to the Cloud, and exported in Excel.

Tool findings led to a discovery: Contrary to popular belief, diamondback terrapins do not nest only on sandy beaches, but in plant-covered spots as well. This information has important implications for the creature, listed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks as a “species of special concern.”

The app’s savings of staff time and dollars means that, for the first time, diamondback terrapins are being monitored on the Graveline Bayou, Deer Island, and Hancock County Marsh Coastal Preserves. In addition, a second app using ESRI‘s Survey123 is being used to track the giant applesnail (Pomacea maculata), a South American invader that eats enough wetland plants to wipe out entire areas and carries parasites potentially harmful to human health. (2018)

Partners: Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources’ Coastal Management Program, Coastal Preserves Program, and IT department